There are no significant benefits demonstrated with formal physical therapy following distal radius fracture ORIF compared to a patient-guided home exercise program.
The reference by Wakefield and McQueen is a randomized controlled trial of 96 patients, comparing formal hand physiotherapy to a home exercise regimen. There was no difference in grip strength, pronation/supination, radial/ulnar deviation, or hand function. The authors concluded that there were no significant benefits to formal physiotherapy.
The study by Souer et al is a level I study evaluating formal therapy and patient-guided exercise program for patients who underwent ORIF of a distal radius fracture with a volar plate and screw construct. This study showed a significant decrease in wrist ROM and grip strength with formal therapy. There were no differences in arm-specific disability (DASH score) at any time point.
Trumble TE (ed): Hand Surgery Update 3: Hand, Elbow, & Shoulder. Rosemont, IL, American Society for Surgery of the Hand, 2003, pp 105-121.
Wakefield AE, McQueen MM: The role of physiotherapy and clinical predictors of outcome after fracture of the distal radius. J Bone Joint Surg Br 2000;82:972-976.
PMID:11041584 (Link to Abstract)
Souer JS, Buijze G, Ring D. A prospective randomized controlled trial comparing occupational therapy with independent exercises after volar plate fixation of a fracture of the distal part of the radius. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2011 Oct 5;93(19):1761-6.
PMID:22005860 (Link to Abstract)